108th Wing Commander's message on sexual assault: "Protect each other!"
By Staff Sgt. Armando Vasquez, 108th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published August 19, 2013
JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. -- In Fiscal Year 2012, there were 3,374 reports of sexual assaults involving service members according to the Department of Defense's Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military. Furthermore, the number of service members anonymously reporting a sexual assault grew by more than 30 percent in the past two years according to the report.
These are statistics the U.S. Air Force has found troubling and sees as a counter to the Air Force cover values. Consequently, DoD is pushing for new sexual assault and prevention measures to eliminate what is being called a stain on the honor of service men and women who honorably serve the Nation.
Therefore, the more than 1,000 Airmen from the 108th Wing, New Jersey Air National Guard, attended a commander's call Aug. 11 at one of their hangars at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, which was the precursor for the Wing's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response stand down training.
Led by Col. Kevin J. Keehn, wing commander, the Airmen heard the implications of committing these types of crimes, as well as new resources now available to potential victims. In addition, Keehn reinforced his stance on this epidemic and how he depends on his Airmen to prevent it.
"We all have a role to play in sexual assault prevention," said Keehn. "We might not have created this problem but we are all charged with preventing it."
During the training event, Keehn discussed the Air Force core values as well as the Wingman concept, telling his Airmen to look out for one another. Furthermore, the Airmen watched several videos, which detailed Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Mark A. Welsh, III message on sexual assault, and instructional videos on possible scenarios of sexual assault and how to spot it and prevent it.
"This is the military's effort to take a final step to fight this epidemic," said Lt. Col. Toni Waters, sexual response coordinator at the 108th Wing. Waters has been the SARC for the past eight years and will be handing off those duties upon her retirement to Capt. April Doolittle, public affairs officer.
If you are a victim of sexual assault or a witness to this crime, there is a support network at your base available to each Airman led by trained sexual assault coordinators, victims' advocates and chaplains. You may also contact your chain of command or local law enforcement - military or civilian. Furthermore, a live, one-on-one confidential help line is available at www.safehelpline.org or by calling 877-995-5247.
As Keehn concluded the training he charged his Airmen with helping to eradicate this problem. "Hopefully, this training will bring this issue front and center," said Keehn. "And we can do something to help prevent it."